If you saw the Borgward stand at last year’s Dubai motor show and thought it was some upstart brand from China, you’re not to blame. The German marque, which has its origins back in the early 20th century, was hardly talked about in the many decades after its insolvency in 1961. From the 1924 Blitzkarren to the Isabella introduced 30 years later, Borgward has had many popular and successful models, and pioneered many technological advancements in the German market until poor management strategies led to the brand’s demise. However, the name was resuscitated in 2015 by a group led by Christian Borgward, grandson of Carl F. W. Borgward, founder of the original company with financial backing from Beiqi Foton Motor Co., a subsidiary of the Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation (BAIC). The revived brand is headquartered in Stuttgart but vehicles are built in China. However, in a similar strategy to that employed by India’s Tata, which retained production of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles in the UK, Borgward is building production facilities in Bremen, Germany, aimed at preventing the image of being a Chinese brand.
When rumours of the brand’s resurrection were going around, everyone expected the first model to be a spiritual successor of the ever popular Isabella. However, Borgward had a more pragmatic plan, and marked the return with a mid-size SUV. Although there are more exciting models in the pipeline as previewed by the stunning Isabella concept car penned by former Mini designer Anders Warming, as of now, the line-up comprises the BX7 and the BX5 SUVs.
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What we have here this week is the BX7, which at 4,715mm long and 1,911mm wide, is an SUV of middling proportions. While the red and white badge prominently placed on the grille is unique, the same cannot be said about the car’s design. Rather than taking advantage of the clean slate to create a strong and distinctive identity, Borgward seems to have borrowed styling cues from various European brands. But the designers have managed to piece all these derivative elements into a rather attractive overall appearance.
The cabin has a premium aura to it, with leather-wrapped seats, soft-touch plastics, and aluminium trim. It’s also relatively roomy, with lots of room for the driver and passengers. The seats are comfortable and fairly supportive. But the interior’s air of perceived quality is let down by the switchgear. Knobs and stalks could do with a bit more resistance. The same applies to the gear shifter, which glides through the gates rather too effortlessly.
Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine rated at 221 horsepower and 300Nm of torque. This unit is mated to a six-speed automatic, driving an all-wheel-drive system. The drivetrain proves adequate for the vehicle’s weight, with progress being unforced. Handling is typical of mid-size SUVs in this class, although a bit more feedback from the steering would be welcome. Ride quality is decent and is comparable to that of offerings from Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and the like.
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Borgward has also not skimped on features, what with power 8-way and 4-way lumbar support adjustable seat, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, automatic anti-glare rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers and even cornering headlights come as standard. Is it priced right? Well, that depends on whether you see it as a Chinese car or a German car. Prices start at Dh100,000 for the base Elite 2WD five-seater going up in Dh10K increments for the Luxury 2WD five-seater and Luxury AWD seven-seater all the way to the range-topping Dh130,000 Ultimate AWD seven-seater trim tested here.
The BX7 is far from a mind-blowing come-back car for Borgward. But it’s a solid starting point to test the waters that offers a mix of decent looks, predictable handling, and a relatively roomy interior. However, it’s also entered a segment and price point that offers some fierce competition from Korean, Japanese, American and even German players. We wish it well.